In the summer, COAF organized a camp called My World of Emotions in Aygehovit, Tavush region. The camp was run by Ani Yengibaryan, a young psychologist from the COAF-supported Karakert community. Thirty-five local kids were involved in the camp.
“From the beginning, I was very glad to spend ten whole days in a village. After all, I have been living in a rural area for years, and I love that environment,” Ani tells.
“I lived in a rented house in Aygehovit, and it allowed me to see the community life “from the inside.” At the beginning, local children where a bit reserved and quiet. They thought they would just hang out at the camp, play games, and have lunches. Then they figured out our activities were totally different from “ordinary camps” – it was more about self-discovery, new values, and psychological games. As soon as they realized it, they started trusting me and enjoying every minute of the camp activities.
At some point, community adults started dropping over and trying to get pieces of advice related to psychology, family relations, and even medical issues. Many of them had no idea about the work of practicing psychologists and they kept asking a lot of questions.
We conducted our activities in the COAF SMART Safe Room but sometimes used the nearby territory as well. Aygehovit people kept saying the camp was extremely important for the community. “You’ve made our life more fascinating,” they said. During the activity breaks, we were often playing some music for people to drop by and have fun. Some of them said, “We live in a borderline village and you helped us forget the sound of shootings.”
One day I decided to organize a “Pantomime Session” for the kids. We applied some facial paint to draw masks on our faces and made a “tour” in the village, aiming at conveying our emotions to people through gestures and mimics. On that very day, I discovered how responsive the Aygehovit people were. Some of them suggested buying ice-cream for the camp participants. The local grocery store manager promised to provide us with wood for the bonfire we had planned to organize. Many of them said they would do everything in their power so that children could enjoy their life.
After that, I started understanding what their life was about. I realized that spending a couple of weeks in the village and communicating with the locals all day long was a right decision. People living in a rural area have their internal rules and ways of communication. However, it is hardly possible to perceive them all unless you live among them for a certain period. I am glad that COAF gave me the chance to see everything “from the inside.” Apart from that, if you spend a lot of time in one place, you have more time to plan and organize your work. You have more opportunities to get in touch with children, assess their needs.
I had the impression that children in Aygehovit were hungry for knowledge. And adults were extremely hard-working. They kept doing something all the time – getting firewood and more, conducting physically demanding work, etc.
I also noticed that people in Aygehovit were very calm and good-tempered. They are “fighters” and, at the same time, they are “in peace” with the world. They tend to keep their land, their territory. They often state, “We have created this land and we should take care of it. Also, they are somewhat conservative and have patriarchal assumptions. For example, they think it is not acceptable for a child or a teenager to hang out late in the evening. However, it is not just an element of parental control, it also forms a value system.
I managed to see and understand it because I was with them and among them all the time. It was a beautiful experience, and COAF should definitely use that format for their camps and training sessions.